Today Well Lived Makes…

Right now, this very reflective moment, I’m in my birth home, 6238 N.E. 25th Avenue, Portland, Oregon. Getting ready for school, having practiced the piano. My mother, a virtual angel impersonating a human being, loved KOIN KLOCK, a talk/music radio program. I remember, as if then was now, “Today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope; look well, therefore, to this day.”

But. Then is not now. Today, February 18, is the day before surgery. But, in this moment of today I received a precious gift—no monetary amount—but a profound and poignant spiritual gift—about the manner by which life is ordered.

My prayer, then, in this moment, between yesterday and tomorrow, is for each of you to more than read the affirmation. May you…may I…live it…no matter when or where or what. A deal?

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God Leaves The Light On For Us…Always!

I’m ready. Yes. Am starting the emotional preparation for Wednesday morning. Consider it a fishing trip. The guide will be Dr. Louis King.

A dear friend, one of those on a 1-10 is a 12, never lacking a sense of humor, shared a quote from Woody Allen, who isn’t afraid to die, “I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

The friend continued, “How are you looking at death, the reality none of us can by-pass.”

Well, I anticipate my “by-pass” this Wednesday morning…a quintet of by-passes actually, will be just fine.

But. Honestly I’m not afraid to die. Because I know the Apostle Paul is spot-on, “Whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.” I also keep the mantra, “Die young…as late as possible.” So, am staying young…yes!

Plus, the abiding—make that eternal—truth is this:

That’s my spiritual truth, way inside my heart. Always. Whether I’m casting or not.

However, should my casting days not continue, look for me in the coffin. I’ll be dancing. Just like Zorba!

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The 11th Commandment

No one has asked me. That’s okay. Nonetheless, if I were asked about the Ten Commandments, especially given the bereft value system today, especially when racism is rampant and homophobia is perhaps at all all-time high, I would, with humility yet strong and deep belief, offer this as an 11th Commandment:

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The Ministry Of Vulnerability

I realized early, never a seminary theme, that ministry is not a popularity contest. It’s a call to life to never avoid vulnerability. I remember once listening to William Sloane Coffin, who to a group of clergy, myself included, said, “The task of preaching is to preach vulnerability.”

That meant never to presume the human condition is either good or evil. It means the human condition is the human condition and the task of ministry is not to be in denial of same.

It wasn’t just random I more than encouraged clergy when I was a Conference Minister, “In your communication, always remember to keep the ratio of two ears and one mouth.”

I know. With a “major surgical event on the horizon,” I should think of that.

But, I cannot this morning, Saturday, February 15. I simply cannot.

Because in reading today’s headlines, which say more than plenty about how finding the ilk in others is a new normal, I recalled when people tried to shout me down.

Yep, it happened.

Twice come to me now.

The first was in June of 1972 when I was invited to deliver the commencement address to the South Eugene High School graduating class. The time of that day was in the 1972 General Election, many of those high school graduates would be voting for the first time. The two candidates were George McGovern and Richard Nixon.

Probably influenced by a church member, who “just happened” to be a Senator, Wayne Morse, I found no personal lean in support of Richard Nixon.

To that end, in the middle of the speech I urged those voting for a U.S. President for the first time to “vote for a peace candidate who vows to end the Vietnam War now with no bombs attached.”

I never got out the next sentence! Oh, I need to say the commencement service was in a baseball stadium and the lectern was on the pitcher’s mound. So, I considered my speech another example of “pitching.”

The parent shouted, “RICHARD NIXON FOREVER!”

Then another parent stood and started to sing, “God Bless America!”

Somehow. Not sure how. But somehow I finished the speech.

Another time, during Conference Ministry in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, we gathered clergy on the theme of retirement. Literally in the middle of the presenter’s speech, a clergy member of the conference stood up and yelled at me, “You are worthless; you have no place; you know nothing about ministry!”

When he finished, the speaker, cooler than I could ever hope, was able to transition back to the theme of living well in retirement.

Also in that moment, the former conference minister, Jim Tomasek, God rest his soul, a fantastic predecessor, leaned over and whispered to me, “That’s almost exactly what he said to me publicly a few years ago…welcome to the Rant Upon Club!”

So. Life. Today. For most of us, filled with dysfunction in the headlines.

I know. I really do. My task is not to make a speech. My task is to breathe, take care of my heart, trust Dr. King to be at his best next week, and more than anything to give thanks. Because to and with me, gratitude is the best voice to speak and hear. Gratitude needs to prevail. Big-time.

Okay. That’s enough. At least for today.

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Words Matter…Always!

Two words on this Valentine’s Day…they are vital.

INTENTION…..CARE

My memory will not be clear, make that lucid to what has happened over the years. Am having some trouble with names. Yesterday my day-brightening son, Andrew, interviewed me. He wanted me to reflect upon the matters of 79 years.

Quite an adventure…for me…to focus upon what I didn’t remember, being born, but when baptized was held by my father…breaking the German Congregational tradition of one of the godparents holding the infant. Of course I didn’t remember that, but was told.

We coursed on…but at times when thinking of a journey that had some value if not flare, I stumbled. Was he Doug or Pete or Mike?

Hey, stuff happens.

But then, I came upon two affirmations from friends…BTW my blogs are “corporate narratives,” and I am most grateful for the input…from Des Moines, Washington, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to Portland, Oregon, to Waco, Texas, to Breckenridge, Colorado. Such help!

I prattle…let me put up the first:

Strong. Okay, first word in this saying is “brokenness.” Cannot say it’s greater than ten years ago or twenty or… But don’t think, at least publicly, that either Bush or Obama called the enemy scum,

Truth: the brokenness is more than evident.

The second word, though, excuse the verb, trumps the first. It is INTENTION. What do I intend? What do you intend?

Examine yourself, as I do myself. I certainly don’t intend to fabricate or fracture the world or my community. No, always no. I INTEND to bring goodness and…well, let me put it this way…however I can I prioritize to this: bring understanding and not judgment.

Then, the second word, CARING.

NOTHING is more important. So many of you have voiced or written or prayed your caring for me. Truth prevails: I am the better because you care.

And.

I believe with my whole heart, physically and spiritually, no matter how it is and how it becomes, CARING is more important…no, make that most important.

Goes like this:

That is what I share…INTENTION….CARING…You up to it? I’m trying my best…join me!

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The Real Heart

A lesson affirmed. Again. And again.

When I began my first ordained ministry, St. Pauls Church [yes, the apostrophe is not used] Northside of Chicago, it was like seminary.

The two pastors on staff, Fred Trost as Senior Pastor and Herb Davis as Associate Pastor, interviewed me…it wasn’t “How are you?” Rather, it was focused specifically upon my theology in ministry and the ways in which Karl Barth’s notions on preaching impacted others.

To that, Barth said a good sermon takes the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other and construct bridges—my take.

After three-plus years in ministry, I learned from both Fred and Herb a third component to preaching needed to happen: Add the church membership listing.

Because the howness and wellness and maybe pain and self-shredding of folk, needed to not be lost in the rush of the day.

Then.

As I left St. Pauls it came to me…

Okay. Preaching is important. Knowing how to be good in stewardship [i.e. raising money and spending it with prudence and balance], develop the church’s mission to others [i.e. Good News Soup Kitchen]…all was vital and vitalizing and important.

But.

Here it comes.

Over the years in ministry there is one component that is by itself in most important. It is to have a heart full of caring for how the other is, what the other needs, and BEING WITH THEM.

[Somewhat parenthetically, but not really, my dismay about the political world today is that success can only be achieved by detailing the opponent’s failures. Ever heard of Roger Stone?]

What has imprinted having a heart is not because mine will be improved medically through surgery next week. No. It is the responses of so many of you, in support for my personal circumstance and the hope that my casting days are not over.

No one speaks about the sermons or the programs…NO.

Rather, in each case a memory is shared…about sitting in the kitchen for prayer before major surgery in another city. About driving to a hospital miles and miles away for a visit. About…

You get the idea. What’s important…the vital and vitalizing is to care…genuinely so…how others are.

For me personally it is about continued prayers for Hannah, Danielle, my Cowboy buddy, Joanne…

This saying will be in my hospital room starting next Wednesday…because of the love of others…for me…and hopefully they know, best reciprocating relationships are when the love, the caring, the “being there” are always mutual.

That’s what covenant is all about…we promise to be caring and supportive of each other…almost like we’re not letting go of friendship.

This now is to Fred and Herb, each of whom is very much alive…and the three of us still know where each of us is. Thanks, beautiful friends…you make my day. And each new dawning day.

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Life…The Essences…Friendship and Fishing

Andrew, at times the master of the understatement, looked from wall to wall, in my home office, “Gosh Dad, too bad you don’t have pictures of fish and the family.”

Loved it.

Andrew is my son. His brother, Matthew, will arrive on Monday. They will be with me and Diane for the surgery.

This morning, a week from having Dr. King get my heart working better physically, I came upon this picture.

It tells more than much. It is sunrise on the Skagit River. I remember it clearly, fishing with Al Day, a beautiful friend, who, at times, fills the net more than I.

The light arrives. The casting happens. And, once in a while, the river explodes. That doesn’t overstate when the Coho or Steelhead is hooked.

Well, more generally yet deeply, being hooked is not being caught. Being hooked is knowing the best of life and the goodness in living.

That happens for and to and with me. For life to me is about another F word. No, not what you think. Life is about friendship.

So many of you bring that…which brings me comfort and peace. Please know that. So, this morning as Andrew and I take on our day, this picture brings me the fullest value…friendship, the dawn of a new day…and life to be lived with hope and joy.

And, yes, to conclude this reflection, want to show you what sometimes happens…I’m the one without the gills. A Skagit River Coho.

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